Monday, June 7, 2010

Picture of the Week No.24 - Walter Crane

Regular followeres of Picture of the week may have noticed a penchant for black and white in my selections, and with so many elegant wood cuts and atmospheric lithographs in the collection its easy to see why my eye is often led in this direction. The crisp pen lines of Walter Crane (1845-1915) have caught me this time in an intricate illustration for Edmund Spenser's (1552-99) Faerie Queen. The catalogue entry from our publication of Watercolours & Drawings follows below. I promise I'll let you have a bit of colour next week! KP

WALTER CRANE, R.W.S. (1845-1915)
Illustration to Spenser’s Faerie Queene c.1897
Pen and ink on paper, 24.3 ´ 19.5 cm
inscribed: with monogram

At last when they were passed out of sight
Yet she did not her spightfull speach for
But after them did barke, & still backbite,
Though there were none her hateful words
iv.viii.xxxvj. to heare


Published in 1897, by George Allen, Walter Crane produced a series of black and white drawings to accompany the six volumes.

Edmund Spenser (?1552-1599) began his masterpiece, The Faerie Queene, in 1579; the first three books were published in 1590 and Books IV-VI in 1596. This drawing illustrates the lines from Book IV given above. Prince Arthur, the hero of the poem, is seeking the Faerie Queene with whom he has fallen in love in a vision. He comes upon Aemilia (lover of the Squire of Low Degree) and Amoret (loved by Scudamour); they are in a wretched state so he puts them up on his horse and takes them to a cottage nearby. This is owned by an old hag, Slander, who insults them and when they depart in the morning, pursues them with vile words - as she is seen doing here.

Crane was an engraver, designer, painter and, above all, an illustrator. His pre-eminence in this field, together with Randolph CALDECOTT and Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), owed much to the enterprise and artistic skill of Edmund Evans, who published much of their best work.

Many of Crane’s watercolour designs for book illustrations and several of his landscape studies are now in the V&A. EJ

PROVENANCE: Elkin Matthews Ltd; P&D Colnaghi, from whom purchased by Gallery, January 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Knights, Chivalry, Romance, Legend, Newcastle upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery 1995, no cat.
REFERENCES: E. Spenser with illustrations by W. Crane, The Faerie Queene, 1897, volume IV.

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